The sightseeing chopper, piloted by a New Zealand with four British and two Australian tourists on board, plunged into Fox Glacier on Saturday, but dismal conditions had stalled recovery efforts at the popular South Island tourist site.

Specialist alpine rescuers brought out four bodies on Sunday but had been frustrated in their efforts to reach the other three. Police inspector Iain McKenzie said they were determined to make the most of improved conditions today.

Alpine rescue team leader Marius Bron said the heavily-crevassed glacier presented a major challenge for his team. Police sergeant Sean Judd said he was relieved the grim task of body recovery was over.

"It's a mixed feeling, given the job that we're up there doing," he said. The helicopter did not send a mayday and police were only alerted when its emergency locator beacon was activated late Saturday morning.

The 13-kilometre  long Fox Glacier is listed as one of the world's most accessible glaciers and attracts thousands of tourists each year.

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